Old 'work of art' leaving

The 120-year-old racing keeler Atalanta emerges from a storage shed in Port Chalmers, bound for a new life with the Wellington Classic Yacht Trust. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
The 120-year-old racing keeler Atalanta emerges from a storage shed in Port Chalmers, bound for a new life with the Wellington Classic Yacht Trust. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
A piece of Dunedin's yachting history more than a century old is heading for Wellington, bound for a new life.

The yacht Atalanta, an overall 12.8m kauri racing keeler built in 1893 by W & C Bailey, has been tucked away in a Port Chalmers storage shed for more than a decade.

However, last week the old boat emerged into the sunlight and was loaded on to a truck bound for Wellington, watched by a small group of yachting enthusiasts.

Its owner Julian Matson, of Careys Bay, has given Atalanta to the Wellington Classic Yacht Trust, which plans to refurbish her.

Among those watching was Yachting New Zealand regional support officer Graeme Wall, who said the old ''5-rater'' keeler represented the elite-level racing design of its day.

Built of solid kauri, Atalanta incorporated design innovations including a ribless hull, which saved on weight and increased speed, he said.

And, although 8.2m long at the waterline, it extended to about 12.8m long above the waterline, boosting the yacht's speed into the wind.

Atalanta was built in Auckland but spent much of its life racing in Wellington, before being bought by Mr Matson and brought to Port Chalmers in 1980.

It was one of only about 10 careless of the same design built.

Some had been restored while others were lost or, like Atalanta, had ''fallen off the radar'', Mr Wall said.

The keeler became a regular and dominant sight on Otago Harbour - particularly in 1985 - before being tied up at Careys Bay in the early 1990s.

It was moved to storage at Port Chalmers in 2002. Refurbishment was expected to take several years and cost at least $250,000, but the trust planned to eventually race Atalanta again on Wellington Harbour, he said.

Mr Wall said there was ''a level of sadness'' watching the departure, but yachties were pleased the keeler was bound for restoration and a new life.

''It is a famous piece of yachting history. They are not making any more of them ... They are works of art and that boat will be again, too.''

-chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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